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Sunday, June 23, 2013

Beginner QAL- Basting Your Quilt

First off, let's all take a look at our finished quilt tops and pat ourselves on the back- yay!  Piecing the quilt top is by far my most favorite part of the quilting process.  I just think it's so fantastic to watch little bits of fabric become transformed into an idea that was in my head.

I have to tell you though, basting is my absolute least favorite part.  I don't tell you that to discourage you or to sway your opinion of this part.  Rather, I am telling you so that if you happen to get frustrated and have the overwhelming desire to yell curse words and pull out your hair during this part, I want you to know that you are not alone.

Okay y'all, I know this week's post title says "basting your quilt," but this week really includes three short tasks- piecing the backing, basting the quilt, and labeling your quilt- in that order.  I have LOTS of pictures, and I'll walk you through each step!

Piecing the Backing

Note- this is not the only way to piece a quilt backing (you can piece a backing in as many ways as you can piece a quilt top), but I am going to show you how to piece your backing with as few seams as possible, and still keep your backing interesting.  Janet from Simply Pieced used all of her extra fabric and some white to create a cool, strippy backing for her brick quilt.  Check out this awesomeness HERE.  Don't worry though, Janet's not a beginner, and we'll keep it much simpler.

*Always keep in mind that the more seams you have, the more difficulty you could have getting your backing to lay smoothly.

First, take your leftover bricks and half bricks and lay them out randomly in rows.  We're going to actually make these rows wider than our quilt top, so use your leftovers to lay out two rows that are the equivalent length of seven full bricks (whereas our quilt top is six full bricks wide).  Feel free to get creative here and include lots of those half pieces!  Sew the bricks into rows, and sew the two rows together, just like we did in our top.

**These two rows will go across the back of our quilt and just add a little bit of interest.  If you would rather just have a single fabric backing, you can leave this step out.

If your backing fabric is extremely wrinkly, give it a quick press.  Take your backing fabric and fold it in half lengthwise, so that it is 1.25 yards long (instead of the full 3.5).  Slide your scissors into the fold that you just made, and cut the fabric in half.  This is an easy way to avoid handling that much fabric on your cutting mat, and it gives you two equal pieces.

Sew the first half of the backing fabric to the top of the brick rows (right sides together).  There will be extra fabric, but we'll cut it off later.  Then sew the other half to the bottom of the brick rows (right sides together).  Be careful when you sew your backing together that you keep your seam as even as possible, or else the backing won't lay flat and you'll have puckers in the back.

If you opted not to include bricks, just sew the two halves of the backing fabric together and you have your backing!

Finally, press the seams of your backing, and trim off the excess backing fabric to even it up with the brick rows.  Voila!  A quilt backing!

Now, you've probably noticed that the backing is a good bit longer than the quilt.  That's okay!  Too much is always better than too little, and that fabric can be used for other projects.  Plus, it really won't be very much at all once we get finished.

Next Step...Basting!

Lay your backing out on the floor, or somewhere it can be taped down with the right side down.  Begin by finding the center of your brick rows and marking them with a long piece of painter's tape on each side.  We will use these tape marks to make sure that the center of our top is aligned with the center of our backing.

Begin taping down the edges and smoothing out wrinkles so that the backing is taut (but not stretched).  I'm not going to lie to you- this is the tough part.  Try not to pull too hard, or you'll stretch your fabric out and actually add wrinkles to your backing.  Keep smoothing and taping until your backing lays as flat as you can get it.

*After this point, try not to step on, or move the backing in any way.

Then lay out your batting and smooth it out over the backing.  Finally, lay out your quilt top, matching the center of the quilt with center of the backing (use the tape guides that we made earlier).  Smooth the quilt top out from the center, making sure that you keep your center aligned with the tape on both sides, and making sure you don't have any wrinkles.

Cut away any excess batting, leaving about an inch all the way around your quilt.  I save this batting to make little quilt sandwiches to practice my free motion quilting skills.  It would also be perfect for pillows or doll quilts.

Now we're ready to pin!  Start by placing a pin in the very center brick, with the safety pin laying in the direction of the brick.  Add a pin to the center of EACH brick, working from the center and smoothing as needed.

We're placing our pins in a way that we won't have to move them at all until we're finished quilting.  There is nothing worse than having to move a pin while quilting, and that causing a wrinkle in your backing.  I'm showing you a picture here of what NOT to do, because I just started pinning without any real thought as to where my quilting lines would be, and I ended up having to move a lot of pins while quilting.  That worked out okay for me, but as a beginner, I don't want you to have to do that.  :)

See the pins all willy-nilly?   Save yourself some trouble and don't do that.

The very last step is to cut away excess backing, leaving about 1-1.5 inches all the way around your quilt.

Congratulations!  You've managed to baste your first quilt.  Aren't you so glad you've been able to crawl around on the floor for the last half hour!  (seriously, the most tedious part is now over!)

Labeling Your Quilt

Why should you label your quilt?  Because you are creating a work of art and a piece of history, and you should be proud of it!  So, we're going to make a really simple, but really cute label that doesn't involve the computer, other special tools, or hand stitching- 'cause y'all know that I hate hand stitching!

I love the personal touch that handwritten labels give to a quilt, and with this method, you can create a label that matches your quilt perfectly!

Start with a piece of plain white fabric- really, any light color will do.  Use a permanent fabric pen to write whatever you want on your label.

At the very least, it should have your name and the date.  I've also included the name of my quilt on my label.  Don't worry about centering it too much, but don't write right beside the edge either.

Use your ruler to trim away excess fabric, leaving half an inch all the way around your words.  See...all centered!

Then choose four of your fabrics from your excess and sew to the edges, trimming off any extra length.  Press your label with starch, and use your rotary cutter and ruler to trim the border to the same width all around.

Turn your quilt over and find the bottom left corner (as you are looking at the back).  Remove a few of the pins from that corner, about 3 or 4 should do it.

Affix your label to the backing in that corner with pins.  Separate the three layers and zig-zag stitch the label all the way around to the backing ONLY.  Be extra careful not to catch any of your batting or quilt top in this process.

Sew only to the backing fabric!

an adorable and quick label!

Turn your quilt back over, smooth it out, and replace the pins.  Now and forever more, anyone who looks at your marvelous quilt will know who made it, and when!

I don't attach the label to the backing before basting because some of the backing gets cut away, and I want to be sure my placement is perfect.

I always attach the label before quilting for two reasons.  One is because I don't want my label stitches showing on the front of the quilt (and I don't want to hand stitch).  Secondly, I want to quilt through my label so that it can't easily be removed.

Whew!  we accomplished a lot.  Next week... quilting!  Hooray!


  1. Kelly, what a great blogger you are! Love your quilts and someday I hope to find something to ask you to quilt for me!

  2. Excellent tute! The first quilt I ever made was a kingsize and I searched everywhere for good basting instructions but I could only find people demonstrating with mugrugs and small wall hangings :)

  3. Brilliant idea to use painter's tape to hold the backing in one place! Love it!

    1. Thank you! I used to baste on a bed, but I could never get my backing as tight as I wanted. After much trial and error, this works pretty well. It still doesn't mean that basting is exactly fun, but at least I don't get puckers on the back of my quilts! Thanks again for your kind comment and for your visit!

      :) Kelly
      ps- you're a no-reply blogger, so I'm responding here!


Thanks so much for your comment and for visiting! I read and appreciate every single comment, and I reply to each one as soon as I can. If you don't hear back from me, you might be a no-reply blogger. :)

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